John Wagner, Hallmark artist since 1970, says Maxine was inspired by his mother, his maiden aunts and his grandmother, the woman who bought him art lessons when ‘fill in the pumpkins’ was about the extent of his art classes at St. John’s Catholic School in Leonia, N.J.
John remembers doodling as a preschooler and says both his grandmother and his mother encouraged his artistic interests. He eventually attended the Vesper George School of Art in Boston and landed at Hallmark as part of a new artists group. But it was the birth of the humorous Shoebox Greetings (a tiny little division of Hallmark) in 1986 that added a new dimension to John’s professional life. The Shoebox way of seeing the world unleashed his talents and he created Maxine.
Why the name ‘Maxine’? ‘People at Shoebox started referring to the character as ‘John Wagner’s old lady,’ and I knew that would get me into trouble with my wife,’ John says. The Shoebox team had a contest among themselves to name the character and three of the approximately 30 entries suggested ‘Maxine’. John says the name is perfect.
John, who says he’s humbled by such acceptance of Maxine, admits he’s proud of her.
Now you know the story of how Maxine came to be.